An Open Letter to the Texas Legislature

I am a teacher. I am likely to lose my job. I have five children who are students. They need their teachers. Some of their teachers are about to lose their jobs.

Every voter in your district is either a teacher, a parent, a student, or a relative of one of the above. Thousands of households will be affected by the decisions that you are making regarding the budget for education and the technology allotment.

The Technology Allotment

Many years ago, Texas made the decision to be a pioneer in the world of educational technology. Through a commitment to funding the technology allotment and requiring teachers to integrate technology into their curriculum, Texas has succeeded in becoming an educational technology leader. Many school districts in the state became 1:1 districts, meaning that every student has a computer available to them. These technology initiatives require staffing for professional development, for technical assistance, and for maintenance and repair. Getting rid of the technology allotment is a giant step backward and would immediately cut the technology program from many districts. As an example, Austin ISD has already announced the end of their entire Educational Technology department.

Where Texas was once a leader in educational technology, now there will be nothing. Many households will experience drastic cuts in income as technology positions are cut and there are no openings for teachers because of the rest of the budget cuts.

The rest of the cuts

Last night, my husband told me about new football practice fields that are on a bond proposal in a neighboring school district. One of these two fields will be an indoor field. While many Texas high school football stadiums already rival those of semi-professional football, this activity center will begin to reflect the professional football world and will cost millions of dollars to complete. How many teachers could those millions fund? Football is king in Texas, which means that everyone has always been afraid to cut funding for these programs. However, football is king in Texas, which means that if funding were cut, the corporate world and the community would almost certainly step up to cover the difference. Yet, when teachers are losing their jobs, there is nobody stepping up to save their jobs.

I know that things like the practice fields are funded through bonds. Why can’t there be bonds to save teacher jobs?

It isn’t really about the jobs, though. What it is really about are the students. Many districts already have crowded classrooms. Cutting teacher positions will mean that high school science classrooms might have 40 or more students in them. How much quality education can take place in a science laboratory with 40 students and one teacher? As a science teacher, I can answer that question: NONE.

If you decide to cut education funding, the damage will be tragically focused on the very students who are the future of Texas. Teachers who are lucky enough to still have jobs will be forced to cut back on the rigor of lessons in favor of classroom management. Instead of lessons rich with real-life applications, exploration, and discovery, lessons will be designed with basic survival in mind. “How can I address this standard, still be sane, and have students who are safe?”

There are a few districts, including Irving ISD, who have been recognized as being some of the leanest districts in Texas. This means that every cut affects an essential position. If you must cut funding in education, it is unfair to make the cuts even across districts. Performance in staffing should be a consideration. Lean districts should experience less of a cut than districts that have a lot of room for change. If you make cuts the same across the board, the message you are sending is to keep staffing padded during good years so that when budgets get cut, there are positions that can easily be cut without affecting student success.

Please, please, think about the citizens of Texas, who will all be affected by education funding cuts.

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